Posted Kenzie Kramer on 1/24/2017 |Remarkable! People
Growing up, Beatriz and Virginia Lozano rarely saw themselves reflected in their history books. The sisters are now changing the narative of history classes by creating resources for kids that show women's impact on U.S. history and engaging students through games and other interactive learning tools.
What is Leesta?
Leesta is an EdTech company that is designing interactive learning resources for elementary students that engage them in inclusive narratives of U.S. history — ones that are inspired by women.
Why did you create Leesta?
The idea for Leesta stemmed from the reflecting and recognizing that when we were growing up as girls, our education systems failed to provide us with better resources. By the time we were in college, we could only name a few women that we had ever learned about in school. We created Leesta so that young girls, will not have to wait until they take specialized college courses to see themselves reflected in the materials they are being taught.
What types of resources will Leesta provide?
Our team is working to create a set of video games and an interactive website that will include multimedia biographies, lesson plans, and activities. Each video game will allow students to experience a historical woman’s life in first person perspective from childhood through adulthood while interacting with larger historical events along the way (e.g. The Great Depression, The Civil Rights Movement). The interactive site will be available for teachers and students to be used as a supplementary resource for any elementary U.S. history lesson.
Why do you think it is important to have resources that focus on women in history?
It is important for children to have access to history courses that focus on women because women from all backgrounds have played a crucial role in creating the country we know today. In today’s social studies landscape, there is a glaring absence of representation. Half of elementary students identify as girls, but the majority of figures children are learning about in school are men. This creates a huge disparity in what girls are told they can accomplish, and the role models they are provided. At Leesta we believe in historical accuracy, and recognize that elementary U.S. history is being told and retold from the perspectives of a select few. This is a disservice to not only girls but to all students because they are learning an incomplete version of history and are missing out on learning some amazing stories from history they have never heard about before.
Can you tell us about one of your favorite women in history that you think more kids should know about?
Beatriz: Bessie Coleman is one of my favorite historical figures. She was the first Black woman as well as the first Native American woman to have a pilot’s license. I love learning about Bessie’s story because like many of the women I have learned about since starting Leesta, Bessie had to be extremely creative and innovative in making an impact because there were many barriers placed before her. Every pilot school in the U.S. refused to teach Bessie how to fly because of her race and gender, so she learned French and moved to France where they were willing to teach her. She earned her international license at the Caudron Brother's School of Aviation and returned to the U.S. as a pilot. I first learned about Bessie after reading her biography when I was in third grade and her story has stuck with me ever since.
What are your goals for Leesta?
We are working to create a more accessible method of having children learn about the amazing women who played a role in history. We are in the process of creating a weekly blog, where we will be posting a short bio on a historical woman every Wednesday. Our email sign-up for the blog is now open, and the first bio will be posted soon. We have also been working to complete a video game on the life of Grace Lee Boggs, a Detroit philosopher, author, and activist. Currently, it is designed as a walkthrough animated storybook, but we are hoping to transform it into a platform game, and have been looking into potentially doing a Kickstarter to make this possible.